June 3, 2010

The Future of Magazines?

So I happened to be going through my tweets, and happened upon one by Chris Uschan from OmniPress sharing the video below.

It got me thinking - is this how magazine content will be widely consumed in the coming years, and if so, how can we get in on the bottom floor now in creating this kind of interactivity and user defined experience?

Many of us are using Nxtbook and other products like it to move our magazines to online platforms, and that's a step in the right direction. However, what's shown in the video below seems more like a giant leap from where many of us in associations are right now. Can we develop this kind of product for our members? Should we?

I think now is the time we begin thinking like Wired and Time (which also has an amazingly interactive iPad app for their magazine), and get ahead of the curve in our publishing capabilities, because Lord knows that our members and readers are only becoming more technologically savvy the more time goes on...


Ellen said...

Bruce -- Thanks for posting about an alternative to our current, environmentally-unfriendly print publications :)

Two thoughts:

-- From what I've seen, the content isn't really interactive. Unless you call being able to twist the images around and click on things as interactive (in online learning, we call that a "page-turner" - ironic, huh?). True interactivity allows editing and sharing of content, live Q&A with authors or experts, options for uploading additional content (including images, text, and video). Maybe I missed something in the app demo I saw, but none of those were included.

-- Even in its current form, this type of online publication is very expensive to produce. If we're struggling to find ways of increasing non-dues revenue, how do we justify an investment in a slick online publication? Such a publication option clearly suits Wired, which is all about the latest glitzy tech thing (and is staffed with highly capable tech folks)...

So the question, it seems to me, is whether the expected outcome (broader reach to younger, app-oriented members) is worth the huge investment of time and money such a transition would take?

Bruce Hammond said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Ellen. You make two good points, and I wanted to just take a moment on each of them below.

First, perhaps interactive is the wrong word, because as you mention, the app that you saw doesn't provide for the truly interactive things that you mention (at least at this point)... I think what you mention is possible in the future though, and is just another way to allow the content to become truly interactive... Perhaps I should have written that Time has "an amazing app that provides an enhanced user experience" since it includes the opportunity to embed photo galleries right within the portion of the story where it makes the most sense, video that complements the story, etc. I do think some of the the things are interactive though - the opportunity to twist the image around is the reader interacting with the content...

As for the expenses, you also are correct. However, I guess the question is: aren't there ways to help augment costs such as advertising, sponsorship, etc.? If you can show the power and value of this "slick publication" to your association's vendors, don't you think one would jump to have the opportunity to sponsor it, or have an interactive advertisement within its pages? I guess it depends on what value an association places on its publication on whether they'd want to put the investment into it to develop an app like this.

I guess the point of my post is that as we look to how today's young people (our future members) and middle aged members are interested in seeing content - thru apps, iPad, iPhone, etc. - we need to be thinking toward how we're going to move our publications forward. Will all association publications have an app like the ones I mentioned? Probably not. However, I think the ones that do will excite and impress their members through a truly exciting publication.

Maggie McGary said...

I couldn't agree more. It kills me to try to navigate the digital magazines out now--they are SO not user friendly and just don't work at all for me, and are very costly to produce. Something like this is SO much more user-centric and not just about an organization being able to say "we digitized our magazine"...when in fact they've basically made it unreadable.

I think technology is moving so quickly that associations are going to be in for a real shock when, 5 years from now, they will be left in the dark ages if they haven't figured out ways to deliver content to new, younger members in the way they're used to consuming it--e.g. like this video. There's going to come a point when excuses about resources, etc just won't fly anymore--if we want to offer value to members we'll have to just figure out ways to do it, rather than force them to do things the way we've always done it because it's too daunting to figure out new ways.